20 November 2013

Light and Truth 1963-2013

“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.”
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth

These pages are written on the run, a blow-by-blow 
account of a 3.3 day haul into Dallas and Ft Worth, 
the reasons why, and the mysteries therein. 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Behind the Gila Monster                                     

It began three years ago, on my birthday, this Gila Monster ball of wax, that is. It will take a few digressions and segues to explain how all things lead to the seemingly preposterous. 

I was El Paso- bound in 2010 to see musician friend Randy Fuller  reunite there with members of the Bobby Fuller Four for the first time since his brother Bobby’s death in Los Angeles in 1966. Randy and I had been working on a band bio for some time and  planned to use this visit to go over notes, interview locals, and brainstorm. I had heavily researched a lengthy band history about Bobby and Randy for Kicks magazine in 1989 , and am intrigued by the region that spawned their music. It can be said that West Texas rock n’ roll goings-on during the years 1961-1966 are an obsession here.  In following the careers of the Fullers and their musical peers, I had come across a 1963 Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars show program which featured, among several others musical stars of merit,  Bobby Vee, who Bobby Fuller admired, so much so that he brought Vee in to El Paso to play at his Rendezvous teen  club in 1964. In searching for a  tour schedule for the Caravan,  I found that the show was listed with a Texas date in Dallas – on November 22, the day that  John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I immediately called friend Ronnie Spector, who was featured in the program with the Ronettes. Yes, she told me, they were in Dallas, and had just come in that morning by bus. No, the show did not do on, and yes, they  had been heartbroken. 

The immediate quest became to locate a ticket, which never materialized, but I did find a newspaper advertisement for the doomed show. It indicated that tickets could be purchased at Top Ten Records. Further research about the record shop revealed a Warren Commission transcript of an interview with the then-owner of Top Ten Records, A Mr. JW “Dub” Stark. Mr Stark claimed  that Lee Harvey Oswald was in the shop the morning of November 22nd,  purchasing tickets. Those  tickets were to the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars show.

Back to  my El Paso trip. So intriguing was the story of an alleged killer buying tickets to a rock n’ roll show, that I made a stop in Dallas on the way to El Paso for the Fuller reunion show. The Top Ten was a glorious spot in time, operated by good humored Mike Polk, who still had the legendary rotary telephone  where Officer Tippit took a call that caused him to race out the door and into the patrol car. He would be found , shot dead a few blocks away. 

I basked in the glory of the tiny shop, where nothing had changed in five decades, maybe more, except the music styles and formats.  Mr. Polk directed me to the Texas Theatre, just down the street, where plasterers working on renovations kindly invited us in, insisting that I sit in the Oswald’s seat (I trust, refurbished, as it  appeared to be of pristine horsehair velvet, or a reasonable facsimile thereof). 

It was a lovely, intimate two-stop JFK assassination tour. I left for El Paso in the morning. That visit  to  a city that I love, is another, longer tale.  

The Dallas dilemma was about to take a very strange turn.

On return to New York late Sunday morning, I went directly to the WFMU record fair at Metropolitan Center on West 19th Street in  Chelsea, opposite Movie Star News. Yes, the Movie Star News.  As I came up the street, I heard someone calling my name. I looked up to see  an old friend running toward me, waving some papers.  This was a person who had located specific Bobby Fuller artifacts. He dealt in historic autographs and documents, and at first, I thought he had found something relating to Fuller. Instead, he showed he (and promptly sold me) a 1959 recording contract and business check, both signed by Jack Ruby.  I was certainly not aware of Ruby being behind any records. 

Of course Ruby was in the entertainment business- he had made a very good impression on my friend Eddie Rocco and his wife Claire when they had spent ten days  with Jack he first week of November 1963, working on a photo essay about him, probably destined for SEPIA, where Eddie had placed a huge photo feature on Esquerita visiting Good Publications in Fort Worth. SEPIA , like BRONZE THRILLS, HEP, and JIVE, were all printed and distributed by Good.  Again, I digress,  I published Kicks Magazine Photo Book #1 in 1989, titled The Lost Photographs Of Eddie Rocco, and clearly remember when I finally found Eddie, after years of searching for the fantastic photographer responsible for both studio and backstage shots for my two favorite publishing empires-- Charlton Publications  of Derby, Connecticut (home of Hit Parader, Rock And Roll, Rhythm And Blues, and Ebony Song Parade among other truly fabulous periodicals) and the aforementioned Good of Fort Worth, Texas.

So my autograph vending friend, believing that anything within a certain circumference of El Paso was of interest to me, unknowingly opened a can of worms in a  riddle-wrapped Pandora’s box that continues to spew surprises, red herrings, and odd truths.

Solving the first riddle, that of the recording contract, has been one of the most exciting sleuthing expeditions ever. It is   now partially revealed  in the backnotes of two Norton  extended-play seven inch records, and in an added chapter that I persuaded Nick Tosches to add to his Kicks Books pocket rocket Save the Last  Dance For Satan, and in the front notes to the souvenir songbook Tragic Tales From the Grassy Knoll.

Does a novelty record lost to the sands of time really serve to tie up loose ends with the Kennedy assassination?   Stay tuned...